Two seats are available on the Lenoir City Board of Education as early voting has opened for the Nov. 6 election.
Incumbents seeking re-election are Jim McCarroll and Bobby Johnson Sr., while challengers are Matthew Coleman and former BOE member Rosemary Hines Quillen.
Johnson initially planned to step aside and let someone else take his spot, but he said that changed after members of the community asked him to run again. He’s served on the BOE for 32 years.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ll stay on there if the people put me back in, but if they don’t then they’ll have a choice’,” Johnson said. “A lot of people called me and wanted me to (run). Of course, I’ve still got grandkids in school too but I just had so many people calling and wanting (me) to stay running. I told them I would. If I get elected that’d be fine and I’d appreciate them, but if I don’t, I hope they get a good one in there.”
Johnson hopes to keep students current with technological needs.
“See, we’ve got a lot of technology and stuff going on now that’s coming in there and I want to be sure that we keep it up to date and keep doing what we’ve got when it comes up,” Johnson said. “... That’s what the kids are looking at today. See, we didn’t have that back when I went to school, but we’ve got it now for the future of our kids and this is what the kids is after and so I want to be sure this is what the kids get.”
McCarroll has served five years, including one full term and one year he was appointed to take over for Quillen, who resigned her seat.
“I have the qualifications and experience in public schools,” McCarroll said. “I’ve served on Lenoir City board for the last five years and in that time we worked to help meet our mission statement, which is building Lenoir City’s future one student at a time. My goal as a board member is to provide a safe, drug-free environment, while providing the opportunity for all students to be prepared for life after graduation whether it be college, tech school or the workforce.”
Voters in the Nov. 6 election will decide on a city sales tax increase by half a percent aimed to improve security and safety at city schools.
Even if it doesn’t pass, McCarroll believes the school system needs to find ways to make safety upgrades.
“I know there is a sales tax referendum on the ballot and I know there has been meetings about school safety and improvements to the high school and the other schools, but I’ve not really seen a plan of how they are going to tackle that, and I have some ideas, and I want to be in on that plan if monies are approved,” Quillen said. “I want (there) to be accountability of how those monies are spent because I believe when you raise taxes, people are willing to do that, you have to be very accountable with that money and let people see that it’s going to good use and it’s being spent for what you said it was going to be spent for.”
One idea she has is linking with the 911 center to help monitor schools.
“My ideas are it seems like there are some options of linking in with the 911 center where they can monitor things inside the school with new technology that other school systems are doing,” Quillen said. “My main goal would be to keep the perpetrator out of the school. I’m very proactive and I know it seems like a lot of the plans are to handle issues once a perpetrator is inside the school.”
Quillen served on BOE from 2001-2013. She hopes to return because she misses serving the community.
“I think we have a good school board and I know a lot of things have been accomplished and I know a great deal of things were accomplished in my former tenure,” Quillen said. “I know I’m not coming in with any kind of negative agenda. I will work with the current board. I love all those guys, I’ve worked with them in the past and the superintendent also and all the staff. I know it would be a seamless transition if I were to get elected with only good things ahead.”
Coleman, a newcomer, felt the timing was right to seek office.
“If I’m going to do anything, if I’m going to be a part of anything, I’m going to be 100 percent involved, which takes time, effort and energy,” Coleman said.
Coleman serves on the Loudon County Boys & Girls Club advisory board. He also has a background in technology he thinks he can put to good use.
“With the school going to 1-to-1 learning and that’s only going to get more and more prevalent in what they’re doing,” Coleman said. “So I think I have a unique knowledge on that, that may not be on the board currently. Those are some of the biggies. That and just a voice of a parent of a kid who’s actually in the system.”
He, too, believes security is important.
“I think the most prevalent issue in schools, one, is a decline in enrollment, which seems from talking to Dr. (Jeanne) Barker (director of schools) that may be a messaging and marketing issue that we need to address,” Coleman said. “It looks like the scores are rising, which is great, but really the next big issue that not only our local schools are being affected by but also nationally is security. We need to figure out how can we make sure the schools are safe as they can be, whether that means additional SRO officers, maybe some better fencing, cameras. I think that’ll be the next big issue we need to tackle.
“... I think we need to come to the budget and see where there’s places we could look there first foremost, but at the same time I think everyone agrees that the current landscape in our culture is different than it’s ever been before,” he added. “First and foremost we need to take care of our kids.”